But then something began to change – at first imperceptibly – in the forgotten forests of Western Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge held their last stand-off. The drug that is most effective at treating malaria is called artemisinin: it shocks the parasite out of your system and saves your life. But in south-east Asia, horrified doctors have discovered that the malaria parasite is becoming resistant to it. In a Darwinian arms race, it has begun to evolve a way to beat the treatment. It is taking twice as long to work – and soon it will have defeated the medicine altogether.
Hari also anticipated people responding by arguing that all you had to do was spray DDT to eradicate malaria:
POSTSCRIPT: There is a hard-right myth that environmentalists “banned DDT in Africa” and “killed Africans”. It is possible some people will try to revive it in response to this article.
It is not true. There is no ban. African governments can still use DDT as much as they like. Many use it in moderation for indoor spraying. But they do not see it as a magic bullet, because it is less effective than other options, like insecticide-treated bednets, because mosquitoes have developed a significant degree of resistance to it, and because it can have dangerous side-effects, like contributing to premature births and killing off local fish populations.